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Musing On The Sexual Harassment Scandals - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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November 14th, 2017

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01:45 am - Musing On The Sexual Harassment Scandals
Like pretty much everyone I know, I’ve been both horrified (that it was so common) and heartened (that it’s finally being taken seriously) about all of the sexual abuse in the entertainment industry. More recently, I’ve also taken a more personal interest in this, because one of the abusers I’ve seen strong evidence against is an RPG author whose work I know, and had (or perhaps still has, it’s unclear) as some of his defenders people I know, like, and respect in the gaming industry, but who is this case, seem to me to be definitely on the wrong side.

All this got me thinking about both portrayals of sexual harassment in media, and also about appropriate responses to abusers from people who find out about the abuse.

Since I’ve enjoying Star Trek: Discovery, and have recently written quite a bit for the new Star Trek Adventures RPG, I’ve also been thinking a lot about Star Trek. When my partners and I rewatched Star Trek: Deep Space 9 in 2015 we noticed that that in the first two seasons (1993-1994) sexual harassment were still a (deeply uncomfortable from a modern PoV) source of humor, with both Dr. Bashir and Quark harassing Jadzia Dax being passed off as funny, mostly at the expense of Dr. Bashir and Quark, but it was still deeply unpleasant. However, by season 4 (1995-1996), this sort of humor was (thankfully) largely absent from the show, which indicates to me that some sort of social change took place during that time.

It’s also interesting going forward and backwards from that show. There were also more than a few uncomfortable episodes in Star Trek: The Next Generation, some, but not all involving Commander Riker.

It’s been longer ago that I watched Star Trek: Voyager, but I don’t remember any incidents of sexual harassment that were anything other than a few that were clearly shown to be wrong.
I didn’t watch most of Star Trek: Enterprise (because I found it fairly bad), so I’d appreciate any info there, but it also didn’t seem to have much sexual harassment of any sort. Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery has been quite good in this regard.

Of course, one thing that’s fascinating to me is that both from recently rewatching some Original Series Star Trek a few years ago and reading this excellent article, it’s clear that there was actually far less sexual harassment of women in that series than in TNG or DS: 9.

I think I understand one reason for this fact – I think the various Star Trek series provide a useful measure of anti-feminist backlash. The original series (1966-69) was an era that wasn’t particularly enlightened wrt gender relations, but it was a deeply progressive and groundbreaking show in many ways, and so the people making it tried, and often succeeded in making a show that did OK with gender relations (with a few notable failures, like this deeply problematic episode. In part, this happened because this show was made shortly before 2nd wave feminism arrived in popular consciousness, and so it was a relatively safe topic for SF set centuries in the future.

In vivid contrast, by 1987, when Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered, anti-feminist backlash was in full swing, and this continued through the mid 90s, at least in the more progressive sides of mass media. However, shows like Xena (1995), and then Buffy (1997) changed ideas about TV, and we see the results reflected in Star Trek (which had sadly ceased being a ground-breaking show with the end of the original series). Later Star Trek series took place in a mass media climate where massive sexism still happened behind the scenes, but the content of the better shows were notably less problematic.

As for appropriate responses to learning about allegations of sexual harassment, I’ve encountered a repeated type of comment in response to allegations of sexual harassment, which is either that we “can’t know” in the absence of a criminal trial, or (more commonly) simply comparing proposed boycotts, firing, and banishment from professional organizations to criminal convictions and claiming that there simply isn’t the evidence necessary for such a conviction and so the action is unfair and unjust. While it’s abundantly clear that most instances have been from reactionary concern trolls, responding to one such troll got me thinking about this issue more deeply.

Because my partner [personal profile] teaotter is a CPA who testifies in court, I now know rather more about criminal and civil trials than I did before, and I have a useful answer to this, which I believe can entirely discredit such claims. Given that criminal trials often involve drastic penalties like depriving people of their freedom for years, standard of evidence are quite high and are (in the US at least) that the jury must believe the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”. However, I’ve never seen any personal or professional actual proposed for handling revelations of sexual abuse that looked remotely like imprisonment.

However, there is another sort of US law, which (to me at least) looks exceedingly comparable to boycotts, firing, and similar actions – civil law. A successful lawsuit typically involves the defendant losing money or property, which seems exceptionally comparable to a boycott (losing sales), being fired (losing money), or being kicked out of an organization (losing status). Unlike criminal trials, the standard of evidence require for conviction in civil trials is a “preponderance of the evidence”. I think is also reasonable basis for decision regarding boycotts, firing, voting, or similar actions.

Recent events have also caused me to consider what (in general) I personally to believe to be a preponderance of the evidence, which is a single report by someone I know or trust, multiple reports by people I don’t know, any sort of direct evidence (like texts or emails from the abuser, or videos). This is why (for the moment at least) I’m uncertain about the allegations against George Takai, but am convinced of all of the other allegations of sexual abuse that I’ve heard about in the entertainment industry (and as I mentioned earlier, within the RPG industry specifically).

As an odd but perhaps hopeful side-note even neocon scumbag David Frum, “has something shockingly reasonable to say about the recent sexual harassment scandals

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